Perhaps those of you versed in snail anatomy already know this, but a recent blog post by NPR science editor and general all-around curious guy Robert Krulwich opened my eyes to the gastropod structure known as a radula. Encyclopedia Britannica defines a radula as, "horny, ribbonlike structure found in the mouths of all mollusks except the bivalves. The radula, part of the odontophore, may be protruded, and it is used in drilling holes in prey or in rasping food particles from a surface. It is supported by a cartilage-like mass (the odontophore) and is covered with rows of many small teeth (denticles). New sections are constantly produced to replace teeth worn away at the front. The shape and arrangement of radular teeth are important tools in species identification."
Check out Krulwich's blog, which was inspired by an award-winning memoir called The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. The book details Bailey's experiences and discoveries while completely bedridden during an extended mysterious illness. A friend gives Bailey a plant with a resident snail ensconsed as a way to entertain her, and Bailey becomes fascinated by and in awe of the creativity of Mother Nature in general, and of the snail in particular, including his/her unusual, never-ending source of dentition.
If you are intrigued, you might want to hear the actual sound, albeit magnified, of a snail using these cool choppers to eat. Furthermore, you might even want to see a snail's radular teeth in action?but I'd watch on an empty stomach.
And that's why snails never visit the dentist............The End.